Commonly known as The Parks, this collection of neighbouring suburbs in Johannesburg – Parktown North, Parkview and Parkhurst – is also known by inhabitants as ‘The Island’. Although it covers quite a large area, it’s more like a series of villages. There is a prevailing sense of privacy and intimacy, as if all this stylishness is separate from the outside world.
The Parks are the inner, historic suburbs of Jozi, where shopping malls seem not to exist. And, as it would be on an island, the area is self-sufficient. Locals – artists and crafters, writers and those in the media – walk or cycle to ‘the shops’ on a Saturday morning to buy necessities and, perchance, a little collectible for the home. Weekends often include an amble around Zoo Lake or Delta Park and long, lazy lunches.
Trademarks are the historic buildings – grand old houses and cottages lovingly manicured – and that very few structures loom above the tallest trees in the area, the hub of the biggest urban forest in the world.
It’s easy to walk from one village to the next, to shop at specialty boutiques, award-winning butchers, famous bakers and just about anything and everything your tasteful heart desires.
If you were to wander down 7th Avenue in Parktown North, past interesting shops and galleries housed in homes built when Joburg was not even a teenager, you’d get to your first temptation, award-winning The Local Grill. Voted as the best steakhouse in SA at the 2011 Eat Out Restaurant Awards, this carnivore’s delight serves well-aged meat in a variety of cuts with a wide choice of sides.
Diagonally opposite, and in keeping with the meat-loving theme, is Wombles Steakhouse Restaurant. The Zimbabwean couple that runs the restaurant has a reputation for top-notch know-how in the restaurant business. Wombles serves generous cuts of juicy meat as the main focus on their extensive menu, which is complemented by a similarly all-embracing wine list.
Moema’s hides at the back of the Parktown Quarter next door. It’s worth searching for, as you will be rewarded with fabulous pâtisserie, a fresh salad bar, crave-worthy cakes and pies. (They do takeaways, too.) Also in the Parktown Quarter is The Foundry. You’ll need to book well ahead for this trendy spot, (which should give you enough time to cultivate a respectable crop of facial hair), but for the most part, the moreish bistro food is worth the wait.
Also in one of these old Parktown North homes is stalwart chef-patron Ciro Molinaro and his restaurant, Cucina di Ciro. His Mediterranean-flavoured dishes are legendary, drawing locals and visitors alike. A long lunch on the veranda is always an excellent option here.
Further down 7th Avenue, on the ground floor of a little apartment block on the corner of 4th Avenue (not to be mistaken with 4th Avenue, Parkhurst – this is still Parktown North), is Cube Tasting Kitchen, with renowned chef Dario d’Angeli (Eat Out’s Chef of the Year in 2003) at the helm. There’s no menu; simply a multi-course taste sensation. Dario will email you the plan for your evening’s experience beforehand, and you can bring your own wine to match.
New kid on the block, That’s Amore, is next door, where the Italian chef creates yet another authentic experience in the Parks. It’s smart-casual and serves a selection of Italian classics.
From there it’s about a 15-minute walk to Parkview’s Tyrone Avenue, where Stelle serves spectacular Italian food in a simple shopfront room along the strip. Also on this road is Croft and Co., an owner run and managed shop where juices are freshly pressed, sausages are handmade, and they host regular tapas and prego evenings.
Or, if you decide to head for Parkhurst, continue down 7th Avenue and keep Parkview for another day, amble past rows of couturiers, décor shops and beauty salons. Turn right into 4th Avenue, which is the famous Parkhurst strip that offers all things tasty and tantalising.
The trendiest new spot on the strip is The Wolfpack, with its humongous burgers, sweet potato chips, and craft beer to wash it all down.
Off the corner on the left is Possum’s Bistro & Deli, crammed with odds and ends and all things yummy. It’s always packed inside and out, and quite rightly so: it’s both a quality bistro and deli in the true sense.
A little further along is Bistro Vine, a firm favourite with many dashing locals. Chef-patron Daniel Vine serves excellent French-inspired bistro fare, with the chic décor to match. There are specials on the blackboards, as well as an excellent list of wines personally chosen by Vine.
Also in the area is Rocket, a modern spot that’s perfect for people watching – not to mention its excellent cocktails, tasty menu and wine list. Or, if it’s earlier in the day, Nice on Fourth features the finest breakfasts, teas and lunches. Also on this bustling street is 4th Avenue Coffee Roasters, where they roast beans on the premises in a big pink coffee roaster.
The suburb’s cool kid, Coobs, uses mostly organic and locally produced ingredients. This is not an intellectual practice, but a thoughtful, practical approach to food. There are interesting options on the menu – with parmesan-dusted wedges, Asian veggies or a parmesan risotto as side dishes – and on the wine list. Another trendy spot is Craft, which opened to please crowds at the height of the craft beer and casual eating craze, with the additional draw of a pizza oven and extensive drinks menu of innovative milkshakes, homemade soft drinks, coffees, and an impressive wine list.
And lastly, Vovo Telo must be mentioned here. While it is a famous bakery (and rightly so) the experience offers so much more. Their baked goods serve as deliciously crunchy hosts to bulging tasty fillings, contrasting nicely with their thin-crust pizzas.
This article was amended 20 August 2014 to include The Wolfpack, Croft & Co, 4th Avenue Roasters, Craft and The Foundry, which were omitted from the initial draft.